Monday, April 30, 2018

Freight via Hyperloop Transport System Comes Nearer Reality as New Cargo Company Launches

We May Need to Add Another Mode to Intermodal
Shipping News Feature
UAE – Regular readers will know we have tracked the progress of the potential for a working Hyperloop transport system since port and logistics group DP World signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the developers of the innovative pneumatic tube transport technology almost two years ago. Now, in partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One, the UAE based group has seen the launch of DP World Cargospeed, set up to prove the viability of the technology for moving palletised cargo through the system.

The partners point out that the Hyperloop is a mixed-use system that fully utilises system capacity and maximises economic and social benefits by having the ability to transport both freight and passengers incredibly quickly at higher than airline speeds. If the technology is to work then the sunny stretches of the Arabian outback should be the ideal environment to see the powering of the 100% electrical drive using renewable solar energy.

Hyperloop is a futuristic mode of passenger and freight transportation in which a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum steel tube, with most of its air removed. Next-generation magnetic levitation technology combined with a low-pressure tube environment enables the pods to move quickly with little friction. Hyperloop can achieve top speeds of up to 300 metres/second, making it two to three times faster than high-speed rail.

The technology facilitates autonomous operations designed to reduce human errors and run with minimal delays and is more cost-effective to implement and operate than high-speed rail, whilst costing approximately the same as a similar shipment by truck. The fully electric and zero direct emissions also make it a highly preferable, environmentally friendly technology compared to road haulage.

If successful, areas connected will benefit certain markets, particularly when consignments such as high-priority, time-sensitive goods including fresh food, pharmaceuticals and electronics are involved, and the plan is to install the tubes so they will connect with key road, rail and air transport hubs. The launch of the new company was attended by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who commented:

“The UAE is keen to be a leading player in shaping the future of the world. Being a pioneer means taking bold decisions that open the way for adopting innovative solutions. We have big aspirations because we have unlimited mindsets and the confidence that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to.”

The Sheikh went on to praise the work done by DP World in raising the UAE’s profile as a leader and pioneer in the trading sector and , The company launch was held at the historic vessel Queen Elizabeth 2, an event hosted by Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman and CEO, and Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder and Virgin Hyperloop One Chairman, with the DP World boss saying:

“Throughout history, cargo has always been the catalyst for transport revolutions. With a bold vision for the future, Dubai has always pushed the boundaries of innovation. This spirit of innovation has enabled us to become a world leader in logistics. We have made a significant investment in Virgin Hyperloop One because we see the need for a Hyperloop-enabled cargo network to support rapid, on-demand deliveries globally. We believe in Virgin Hyperloop One’s long-term vision. They are the right partner to shape the future of global logistics, and we look forward to developing the first DP World Cargospeed systems with them.”

Hyperloop added the Virgin brand after a round of financing late last year, raising $85 million from the likes of Branson, DP World, Caspian VC Partners, Western Technology Investment (WTI) and several others also apparently including SNCF, with the threat of needing a further $200 million in short order. Earlier this month Virgin Hyperloop One saw three of the ten strong board of directors resign, Jim Messina, a former adviser to President Barack Obama; Jim Rosenthal, ex Morgan Stanley and Peter Diamandis, founder of X Prize.

The replacement board members are Bill Shor of Caspian VC, Yuvraj Narayan, CFO at DP World and Anatoly Braverman of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. At the launch last week, Rob Lloyd, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, said:

“Based on McKinsey’s assessment of our technology, Virgin Hyperloop One-enabled supply chains can dramatically impact business bottom lines by reducing both finished goods inventory and required warehouse space by 25%. Collectively, we chose to call our Virgin Hyperloop-enabled cargo solution DP World Cargospeed, because speed is about more than just getting from A to B; it’s about optimising the entire end-to-end journey. DP World Cargospeed will offer unprecedented customer experience, reliability and the freedom from having to plan too far ahead.”

Hyperloop was of course originally proposed by Tesla bass Elon Musk in 2013 with the technology ‘open sourced’ to enable anyone with the drive, initiative, engineering ability – and of course the funds – to develop a working system. Now we see schemes in the US, India and elsewhere beginning to take shape.